Myanmar is a country that’s been unseen by most of the world due to 50 years of military rule. Because of this, it proved to be one of the most culturally intact places we've visited in nearly two years on the road. Men and women dressed in longyis, traditional wraparound ankle-length skirts, and nearly every woman's face was painted with thanaka , a paste made from tree bark. Worn as both a beauty product and sunscreen, the painted circles, lines and squares were a bit jarring at first, but I gradually came to find it a beautiful example of the country’s authenticity. The military dictatorship officially ended this past March when a new government was sworn in. I'm not sure if it was because the country had recently emerged from its repressed state, but the sunrises we observed in Myanmar's ancient city of Bagan appeared especially beautiful and full of hope. We visited during May, the hottest part of the year, and each day the temperature rose to an unbearable 110 degrees. Several days, we opted to explore Bagan by "electric bicycle" (which turned out to be more like a scooter) and had a blast weaving through the plain of temples on near-desolate dirt roads. We went out during sunrise and sunset and did as the Burmese do during midday: a whole lot of sitting still. Many times we found ourselves musing aloud how we felt as if we'd been transplanted into another world. It will be interesting, and a bit sad, to observe how the country's rich culture evolves and changes with influence from the outside world.
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